Want to measure your cognitive ability? Just draw a dog. I’m serious – draw the best (whole!) dog that you can, and I’ll give you a score. You can find out what happened when we ran this as a twitter competition here
Scroll down to score your dog…
Dog Point Scale
1. Head present
2. Neck present
3. Neck 2-dimensional – must flow into head or body
4. Eyes present
5. Eye detail – lashes
6. Eye detail – pupil
8. Nose present – any indication
9. Nose present – 2-dimensional
10. Mouth present
11. Lips 2-dimensional
12. Hair or spots – any indication
13. Hair I – scribble closely conforming to body – includes spots
14. Hair II – more than just scribble or on circumference
15. Ears present
16. Ears in proportion – length greater than width
17. Legs present – any indicator
18. 4 Legs
19. Legs engaged in activity – or lying down
20. Legs in proportion – length greater than width
21. Legs 2-dimensional
22. Some distance between front and rear legs
23. Legs in perspective
24. Crotch-like indicator for legs
25. Legs in proportion – taper off from top
26. Digits present
27. Feet – any indication
28. Feet – 2-dimensional
29. Details of toes correct
30. Trunk present
31. Trunk in proportion – length greater than width
32. Head not more than ½, nor smaller than 1/10th, of body width
33. Length of face greater than width
34. Tail present
35. Tail – 2-dimensional
36. Tail shaped
37. Motor coordination lines
38. Motor coordination junctures
39. Head outline – good contour
40. Trunk outline – deviation from oval form
41. Collar or leash
The Draw-A-Dog Scale is a real psychological test, used to measure children’s cognitive development. The average score for five-, six- and seven-year-olds is 14, 18 and 22 points respectively, with boys and girls showing similar performance. So if you didn’t manage to beat this, you should be asking yourself some serious questions.
The logic behind this test, and the more widely used Goodenough-Harris Draw-A-Person Test, is that it provides a relatively pure measure of cognitive development that is unclouded by other factors. For example, more traditional IQ tests based on language, maths or logic are affected by factors such as children’s ability to read or understand verbal instructions, and – as such – are more a measure of education level than of pure cognitive development.
But the Draw-A-Person Test also has a darker – and more controversial – cousin: the Draw-A-Person Screening Procedure for Emotional Disturbance. As its name implies, clinicians use these drawings to identify children who are emotionally disturbed. Some people have claimed that individual errors or distortions represent specific problems (e.g., that children who miss out eyes are unwilling to interact with the world around them). Although there is little evidence for such specific claims, some studies have found that, when taken as a whole, drawings can help to distinguish normal and disturbed children. One scoring criterion, for example, is whether children draw fists, claws, guns or knives. Drawing monsters instead of people and writing swear words are both cause for concern, as is drawing unusually huge or tiny people. That said, this is an inexact science; even the study that provides perhaps the strongest support for this test found that drawings could correctly classify only around 63 per cent of children as normal versus potentially disturbed.
So if some of your child’s drawings are a little bit – ahem – colourful, don’t start calling the doctor just yet. But if – like The Simpsons bully Nelson Muntz – she draws ‘a robot with guns for arms, shooting a plane made out of guns that fires guns’, you should probably run for the hills.
This is an extract from Psy-Q: You know your IQ – Now test your psychological intelligence, which you can buy here
Levinson, B. M., & Mezei, H. (1973). The Draw-a-Dog Scale. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 36(1), 19–22.
Goodenough, F. (1926). Measurement of intelligence by drawings. New York: World Book Co.
Harris, D. B. (1963). Children’s drawings as measures of intellectual maturity. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.
Naglieri, J. A., & Pfeiffer, S. I. (1992). Performance of disruptive behavior disordered and normal samples on the Draw A Person: Screening Procedure for Emotional Disturbance. Psychological Assessment, 4(2), 156.